A fashion revolution that the Second World War brought was that women wearing trousers. Once women had discovered the freedom to wear pants, when they worked in the factories, they weren’t about to give up that freedom just because the war had ended. Women’s trousers of the time had the zipper down the side, to keep the front flat, and often had straps on the bottoms of the legs to keep them from riding up or bunching.
The shirtwaist dress
The shirtwaist dress became very popular in the 1950s. It was a full skirted dress with a fitted button down top. The shirtwaist dress became almost the uniform of the 1950’s housewife. It was easy to put on, easy to wash, and comfortable to wear. It was often worn with an apron over the top, so it could last for several days without it needing washing.
The conical bra
Worn by stars like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, the conical bra certainly did its job of lifting and separating! Sometimes called the torpedo bra, the conical bra had pointy, conical shaped, cups that were designed to enhance a girl’s natural assets, and they were often worn under tight fitting sweaters to make the point even more obvious.
Once rock and roll hit the scene, girls wanted to be able to dance and that meant they had to have clothes that gave them the freedom to move around. This gave rise to the wide flaring skirts that ended just below the knee, many of which had a poodle emblem on the bottom, hence the name. They were usually worn with petticoats, which made them swish when the girls were dancing.
Gloves were also a big thing in the 1950’s, and not just for keeping the hands warm on a cold day. In fact, the older women would wear gloves and a hat for any occasion. For formal evening wear, long white or black gloves, which went up the elbows, were worn with strapless or short sleeve dresses. Shorter gloves were worn for more casual occasions and for when the weather was warmer.
One of the great causal looks that came out in the fifties was the three quarter length, tight fitting trousers called Capri pants. They were generally worn with wide belts and shirts tucked in at the waist, halter tops or a boned bodice. Most also had a V cut into the hem to allow for easier movement. This one was definitely a look for those lucky enough to have a tiny waist.
The coatdress was similar in design to the shirtdress, but made with a much heavier fabric. These dresses had no back zipper; they were buttoned all the way down the front. As the name would suggest, they looked very much like a cross between a coat and a dress. They often had oversized buttons and padded shoulders and, because of their weight, they were normally worn in the winter and fall.
Eyeglasses stopped being a dull necessity for those with poor eyesight and became a fashion statement in their own right. New and exciting designs, like the cat’s eye style, became very popular, as did a wide range of brightly coloured frames.
Fifties fashion wasn’t all about freedom and free flowing garments, the fifties were also the time of the aptly named hobble skirt, or pencil skirt. These were the skirts that fell from the waist in a tight fit that left little room to even walk properly. They were also sometimes called the wiggle dress, because that is about all a girl could manage when wearing one.